Preamble
Overview
 
A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subject of the statute. It is distinct from the long title
Long title
The long title is the formal title appearing at the head of a statute or other legislative instrument...

 or enacting formula of a law.
While preambles may be regarded as unimportant introductory matter, their words may have effects that may not have been foreseen by their drafters.
Encyclopedia
A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subject of the statute. It is distinct from the long title
Long title
The long title is the formal title appearing at the head of a statute or other legislative instrument...

 or enacting formula of a law.

Legal effect

While preambles may be regarded as unimportant introductory matter, their words may have effects that may not have been foreseen by their drafters. For instance, it is on the basis of the preamble to the French Constitution, mentioning the solemn regard of the French Republic towards the principles set forth in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen is a fundamental document of the French Revolution, defining the individual and collective rights of all the estates of the realm as universal. Influenced by the doctrine of "natural right", the rights of man are held to be universal: valid...

, that the Constitutional Council
Constitutional Council of France
The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958, and its duty is to ensure that the principles and rules of the constitution are upheld.Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed...

 has declared certain laws to be unconstitutional
Constitutionality
Constitutionality is the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution. Acts that are not in accordance with the rules laid down in the constitution are deemed to be ultra vires.-See also:*ultra vires*Company law*Constitutional law...

 (the first case being decision 71-44DC).

In Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the preamble to the Constitution Act, 1867
Constitution Act, 1867
The Constitution Act, 1867 , is a major part of Canada's Constitution. The Act created a federal dominion and defines much of the operation of the Government of Canada, including its federal structure, the House of Commons, the Senate, the justice system, and the taxation system...

 was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the highest court of Canada and is the final court of appeals in the Canadian justice system. The court grants permission to between 40 and 75 litigants each year to appeal decisions rendered by provincial, territorial and federal appellate courts, and its decisions...

 in the Provincial Judges Reference
Provincial Judges Reference
The Provincial Judges Reference [1997] 3 S.C.R. 3 is a leading opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in response to a reference question regarding remuneration and the independence and impartiality of provincial court judges...

, to increase guarantees to judicial independence
Judicial independence
Judicial Independence is the idea that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government...

. In India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, the Supreme Court frequently rules unconstitutional amendments which violate the Basic Structure
Basic structure
The basic structure doctrine is the judge-made principle that certain features of the Constitution of India are beyond the limit of the powers of amendment of the Indian parliament. The doctrine, which was first expressed by the Indian Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati v...

 of the Constitution, especially its Preamble. The Bosnian Constitutional Court
Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is a special court sui generis, whose main role is to be the interpreter and guardian of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as stated in Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution , and it is considered to be the highest judicial...

, particularly citing the case law of the Supreme Court of Canada, also declared that the provisions of the preamble of the Bosnian Constitution
Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the highest legal document of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The current Constitution is the Annex 4 of The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, signed in Paris on 14 December 1995...

 are invested with a normative force thereby serving as a sound standard of judicial review for the Constitutional Court.

Due to concern over its potential effects, the redaction of the preamble of the proposed European Constitution
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

, in 2002, has caused much controversy because of the possible inclusion of a reference to the Christian heritage of Europe
Constitutional references to God
Several national constitutions make reference to God, most often in the preamble. Such invocationes or nominationes dei are found notably in several European constitutional traditions and in the constitutions of Islamic countries.In constitutional...

. Likewise, in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 in 1998, a referendum on whether to adopt a new preamble was accompanied by a promise that the preamble, if adopted, could not be enforceable by the courts, as some were concerned with how the preamble could be interpreted and applied.

See also

  • Preamble to the United Nations Charter
    Preamble to the United Nations Charter
    The Preamble to the United Nations Charter is the opening of the United Nations Charter.-History:Jan Smuts originally wrote the opening lines of the Preamble as, "The High Contracting Parties, determined to prevent a recurrence of the fratricidal strife which twice in our generation has brought...

  • Preamble to the United States Constitution
    Preamble to the United States Constitution
    The Preamble to the United States Constitution is a brief introductory statement of the Constitution's fundamental purposes and guiding principles...

  • Preamble to the Constitution of India
    Preamble to the Constitution of India
    The preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document....

  • Preamble to the revised 1987 Constitution of the Philippines
  • Preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    Preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    The preamble to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the introductory sentence to the Constitution of Canada's Charter of Rights and Constitution Act, 1982...

  • Preamble and Title 1 of the Swiss Federal Constitution
    Preamble and Title 1 of the Swiss Federal Constitution
    The preamble and the first title of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 determine the general outlines of Switzerland as a democratic federal republic of 26 cantons governed by the rule of law.-Preamble:...

  • Constitution of Fiji: Preamble
    Constitution of Fiji: Preamble
    The Constitution of Fiji begins with a Preamble, which sets out the historical, cultural, and political reasons for the drafting of the 1997 Constitution.The writing of the Preamble was a careful balancing act...

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